Donegal Yarns & Ferguson’s Irish Linen

The Challenge

Develop Bio-based dyes / pigments for natural fibres inlcuding wool and linen. Technology Readiness Level 5+.

In detail

Replacement of the petrochemical-based and carbon-intensive input molecules of the colour industry with low-carbon and biobased ones.

It is also important to consider:
– The development of an industrial-scale fermentation process that gives access to a key intermediate with a very low footprint. This will allow for the production of a wide variety of biobased and high-performance dyes and pigments through innovative green processes.
– Dyes that won’t yield toxic run-off and doesn’t need to undergo desalination.

What does implementation look like?

Changing current practice from excess use of water, pigments, harmful chemicals in the dye of finishing processes.

The textile dyeing and finishing industry has created a huge pollution problem as it is one of the most chemically intensive industries on earth, and the No. 1 polluter of clean water (after agriculture). More than 3600 individual textile dyes are being manufactured by the Industry today. The industry is using more than 8000 chemicals in various processes of textile manufacture including dyeing and printing. Large quantities of water are required for textile processing, dyeing and printing. The daily water consumption of an average sized textile mill having a production of about 8000 kg of fabric per day is about 1.6 million litres. 16% of this is consumed in dyeing and 8% in printing. Specific water consumption for dyeing varies from 30 – 50 litres per kg of cloth depending on the type of dye used. The overall water consumption of yarn dyeing is about 60 litres per kg of yarn. Dyeing section contributes to 15% – 20% of the total waste water flow. Water is also required for washing the dyed and printed fabric and yarn to achieve washing fastness and bright backgrounds. Washing agents like caustic soda based soaps; enzymes etc. are used for the purpose. This removes the surplus colour and paste from the substrate. Water is also needed for cleaning the printing machines to remove loose colour paste from printing blankets, printing screens and dyeing vessels [3,4]. It takes about 500 gallons of water to produce enough fabric to cover one sofa. The World Bank estimates that 17 to 20 percent of industrial water pollution comes from textile dyeing and finishing treatment given to fabric. Some 72 toxic chemicals have been identified in water solely from textile dyeing, 30 of which cannot be removed5. This represents a significant environmental problem for the clothing and textile manufacturers.

Company background

Fergusons: Thomas Ferguson is synonymous with high quality Irish linen. This reputation for quality developed over many generations owes much to the Company’s no compromise approach to raw material selection, and modern equipment. Founded in 1854 by Thomas Ferguson, an already established linen weaver, the Company began weaving Irish Linen in the mid 19th century. Thomas Ferguson is a brand you can trust for quality. service, innovation, design and delivery.

Donegal Yarns: Donegal Yarns, based in Kilcar, Donegal, is one of the leading Irish companies producing indigenous and authentic textile products using natural fibres. Sustainability and heritage are core to how the company approaches their production, design and manufacturing.We are one of the last remaining companies producing this indigenous and authentic product in Ireland. The full production process and distribution takes place at our Donegal woollen mill in Kilcar, which has a long history of industrial textile manufacturing.

Explain your approach to sustainability

Fergusons, the company is a member of the Neilly Group of companies. For over 55 years the brand has supplied linen and linen blend fabrics. These go to fashion, apparel, and home interiors clients worldwide. Flax takes just 100 days from the seed being planted to the flax being ready to pull (it’s not cut). Flax takes 13 times less pesticide to grow that of potatoes. It is retted in the fields and needs far less water than cotton to grow. It is earth friendly, and nothing is wasted. Irish Linen is tremendously versatile. It can be woven or knitted so that it’s sturdiness makes it ideal for upholstery and well as fine and floaty Irish Linen for eco-savvy designers in the film and fashion trades. Irish Linen is a sustainable product: eco & future friendly, renewable and recyclable, biodegradable, naturally anti-bacterial, naturally moth resistant, naturally wicking, ethically produced, planet friendly and natural, em-pathetically designed and environment friendly.

Donegal Yarns: Sustainability and heritage are core to how the company approaches their production, design and manufacturing. Our goal here in Donegal Yarns is to produce a high quality product without compromising our standards, creating a platform for future generations. We are active members of The Woolmark Company and support The Campaign for Wool. A key focus on our strategy is to work closely within the whole supply chain, collaborating from ‘farm gate to fashion’, promoting sustainable wool. Since 2013, Donegal Yarns actively works to embed local resources into their manufacturing by working with farmers, merchants and designers to reinstate Irish grown wool into the supply chain. Wool is the original eco fibre. As well as creating high quality, durable, comfortable and beautiful products, wool is 100% natural, renewable and biodegradable. No other fibre, natural or man-made, can match all of wool’s naturally inherent benefits.